Convivencia as political and affective labor

Given mounting pressure from the new right to reject values of multiculturalism, how does the work of “getting along” unfold in increasingly diverse contexts? This presentation addresses this question through the lens of convivencia (conviviality) as a historically embedded but newly salient notion in peninsular Spanish sociality and education. Using ethnographic and discursive data collected in and around secondary schools in the municipality of El Ejido (Almería), which seven years ago saw some of Spain’s worst racially-motivated violence, I detail how convivencia has emerged as both an ethico-moral value and an institutional imperative. Working between taken-for-granted notions of cross-cultural conviviality and pedagogical initiatives for democratizing school interactions, I highlight how the stigmatized status of Moroccan immigrant youth, in particular, both challenges the ideals and highlights the hard work of operationalizing convivencia in a context where national and ethno-religious identities are typically treated as bounded criteria for sociality. I discuss contemporary multicultural convivencia as a mode of affective and political labor borne of discomfort and misunderstanding but also potentially redemptive in less-than-perfect encounters between members of dominant and nondominant communities living side-by-side. In all this, I compare and contrast understandings of indigenous conviviality (Overing and Passes 2000) with modernist Western (Mouffe 2000), and particularly Spanish (Erickson 2011, Rogozen-Soltar 2017) notions of diversity and peaceful coexistence, illuminating the ways in which convivencia represents a distinctly idealized norm that elides the notion’s historic and situated complexity
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